By Art Calder, Head of clinical services
In February, I warned about the growing backlog of our Learning Disability Mortality Reviews (LeDeR) and the vulnerability of this population group in the face of COVID-19. Regardless of the pressure on parts of the NHS at the moment it is essential all that all cases continue to be reviewed, both as a moral obligation to patients’ families and to help improve care in the future.
Last week the HSJ reported how, as clinicians are needed on the frontline in the fight against COVID19, the reviews have stalled yet again. And at the same time referrals to the programme has risen since 19th March 2020.
We know from the Shielded Patients list that many of our learning disability patients are vulnerable because they live with co-morbidities. This risk is escalated through social distancing required within their day to day care and the fact that many people with learning disabilities lack appreciation of the need for social distancing especially when this contact is critical to their own mental wellbeing.
At CHS, we haven’t let COVID19 get in the way of our LeDeR programme. Our teams continue to review all cases that come in our direction. To make sure we are delivering these safely we have adapted our approach and are undertaking these remotely, getting families involved through calls to explore the care their loved ones are receiving and understand any concerns or issues they have or remaining questions they may want answers to.
These reviews are more important now than ever. Only last week we heard alarming news over the dubious application of ‘blanket’ Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) forms being used for particularly vulnerable acute hospital patients presenting with a learning disability.
We have adjusted our clinical reviews to ensure that such circumstances are fully explored in the course of each review.
At CHS we will not take our eye off the ball. We’re concerned that high quality care for people with learning disabilities will suffer during this pandemic and alongside their human rights too. We’re working remotely to make sure we can continue to maintain contact with all of our patient services. And this is true too of our LeDeR casework. As healthcare professionals we know this is the right thing to do and so do families.
We should be judged by how well we support the most vulnerable through this pandemic – we believe we can do right by them and right by their families.